Five year plan pressure

‘So, what’s your plan?’ Oh god. The question I dread at every social gathering and family event. I want to have an answer. Maybe I can just lie? Make up a full-proof plan. Yeah, I’ll do that. ‘Well, I’m just taking a year out to save, and then I’m going to do a Masters, and then hopefully go down to London and take on an internship.’

Good. That’ll shut them up for a few weeks atleast. Make them think I’m the kind of person that actually has a full-proof plan for life.

I definitely don’t.

That’s not to say I don’t make plans. I do. Doing a masters is something I’ve researched and thought a lot about and I know doing an internship in London is something that would benefit the career I want to get into. However, the thing about my plans is that they just aren’t solid. I don’t like to make anything in my life too concrete unless I know it’s 100% what I want to do. I’ve changed my mind about what I want to do for a career so many times that well, it’s best not to dive into a plan until I’m sure of it.

Atleast, that’s what I’ve always told myself. And where has it got me? Definitely not where I want to be. I don’t want to keep putting things off just incase. I want to become the kind of person that makes plans and sticks to them. Why? Because people who make plans get things done.

Going with the flow, a big no-no?

Don’t get me wrong. I love going with the flow. When I was travelling, I felt so free and happy that I could decide what I was doing every day; that I didn’t have to stick to a plan or an itinerary. I could wake up and say ‘Hey, I’m tired of this town, I’m going to move on’ or decide to book a few more days in a hostel because I was enjoying my stay. However, when I think about it, I still had an itinerary, I still had a plan of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. It just didn’t feel like a plan because it didn’t seem like a burden. The structure of my trip meant I had a time frame in which to get things done, and that motivated me to budget my money so that I could afford to do things I had always dreamed of.

I’ve spoken to a lot of older people who have said they didn’t plan to be where they are, that they just met the right person that introduced them to someone who got them their big break in a certain career. These people tell you ‘not to worry’; that life will just sort of magically create a path that’s right for you. That’s great and all, but you can’t really count on serendipity. As much as we’d like it to be, life really isn’t fair, and that magic internship that popped out of nowhere for that one friend wasn’t really as much a case of ‘right place, right time’ as a case of ‘It’s who you know, not what you know.’

Before you know it, a year has passed without change.

The thing about making a plan is that it gives you focus in the short-term. I haven’t had a ‘big plan’ for a long time, and it’s meant that a lot of weeks and months have passed without me really moving forward with what I want to do. It’s OK to do this if you’re happy and content with the life you are leading, but if, like me, you’re the kind of person who needs a goal to keep you driven, to always have a ‘next step’ to keep you going, then you need to make a plan of how you’ll get there. Otherwise, you’ll wake up one day and realise a year has passed in almost an instant. Trust me, you’ll be very disappointed with yourself!

When you Graduate, no one will do it for you.

Self-motivation is extremely important once you graduate. When you’re in High School, your teachers and parents and friends will motivate you to get good grades. You’ll get help from your guidance teacher on how to apply for University. You have tons of support. At University, you are pressured by deadlines and exams to get things done. The fear of failure and the aspiration to succeed and to get the degree you want will push you forward.

But after University? Who is putting the pressure on you to apply for jobs? What will go wrong if you just stay in your retail or hospitality job? Where are the deadlines? That’s right. There are none. YOU’RE FREE! FREE FROM ALL THE PRESSURE.

But wait. Pressure is a good thing. Pressure pushed us through school and University. Pressure got us to where we wanted to be. Without pressure, you’d just glide through life, getting nothing done. Without strict consequences, it can be hard to keep yourself motivated.

So, pressure yourself. Set goals. Remind yourself that the consequences of not planning now aren’t immediate. The consequences of not setting goals will hit you years from now. Realise the errors of your ways today. Find out what your obstacles are and overcome them, step by step. I don’t believe in ‘five year plans’ but I do believe in trying to find out what it is you want and then making the steps to get there.

Remember, no one is going to do this for you anymore. You’re off the set path of education now.

In the eternal words of Fleetwood Mac, you can go your own way.